Public Relations Tactics

The Link Between APR and Ethical Counsel

April 3, 2017

April is APR Month — and there isn’t any better time to examine the link between Accreditation and ethics.

Dr. Marlene Neill, APR, an assistant professor at Baylor University, has researched the role of ethics in the PR profession since 2010.
Public Relations Review published her seminal study last fall. Neill’s research found that Accredited PR practitioners are more likely to say they feel prepared to provide ethical counsel than practitioners who are not Accredited in Public Relations.

“These findings are consistent with previous research that found Accredited practitioners were more likely to engage in public relations ethics competencies when compared to non-accredited practitioners,” said Neill, referring to a 2011 study by Bey-Ling Sha, APR, a professor at San Diego State University. “The findings also provide further support for the value of Accreditation.”

Not surprisingly, many Accredited professionals agree.
Samantha Villegas, APR, the president of SaVi PR, contends Accreditation helped her become a better ethical adviser early on in her career.

“I wasn’t properly trained in how to identify what is or isn’t ethical before [earning the APR],” said the agency owner who earned her Accreditation in 2001. “Breaches of ethics pervade our business world, and for that reason, I think many people believe something is OK just because it happens a lot.”

Like Villegas, Dr. Deborah Silverman, APR, Fellow PRSA, has found Accreditation helpful in integrating ethics into her public relations career. The college professor earned her Accreditation in 2000. At the time, she was working in higher education as a PR adviser to the president of a major research university.

“Prior to earning my APR, I already had a finely-honed sense of ethical conduct based on my family values and religious upbringing, but earning Accreditation made me keenly aware of the importance of ethical behavior,” she explained. “Thankfully, my boss [the university president] shared the same ethical values.”

Since becoming a full-time professor in 2002, Silverman has emphasized the PRSA Code of Ethics in her classes, and includes a question about ethics when hiring PR faculty. She also served as the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards chair from 2011-2013.

Both Villegas and Silverman contend ethics are as important as ever in the profession.

“In the past decade, ethics have become increasingly important to PR professionals, not only because of the impact of social media, but also because of the role of many PR professionals as counselor to management,” said Silverman. “Perceptions about an organization’s credibility can make or break an organization’s reputation, a key area of focus for public relations professionals.”

Ann Peru Knabe, Ph.D.,  APR+M
Ann Peru Knabe, Ph.D., APR+M, teaches public relations full-time at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. She is also a colonel in the Air Force Reserve serving as a public affairs officer at the Pentagon, and owner of AK & Associates, a Milwaukee-based consulting firm that specializes in media training and crisis communication.

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